East Coast Chair and Barstool Blog

5 Experiences to Add to Your Restaurant and Shake Up Your Customer Traffic

Experiences are key to engaging customers. Sure, sometimes customers will want to just sit down and have a meal, have a tasting, eat dessert, or whatever your specialty is. But in other instances, they want to be entertained. By hosting different experiences throughout the year at your restaurant, you can bring excitement to their week. Offering these events can shake up your customer traffic and show your offerings in a new light. For example, going out for tacos just doesn’t have the same ring as heading to a Tex-Mex Taco Tuesday Fiesta. It’s all how you market it!

With any experience, there are a few must-do’s that come with planning a successful event at your restaurant.

  • Plan in advance! There’s a sweet spot between giving customers too much notice and not enough. Have your events scheduled at least a month in advance.
  • You have to advertise! No matter what kind of event you’re hosting for your restaurant, be sure to publicize it. Fliers, Facebook events, and staff advertising to customers are all great ways to let the public know about your big plans. If they don’t know, they can’t come! 

Let’s take a look at some ideas you can put into action at your business:

Throw a Theme Party

This is a great way to show off the versatility and skills of your kitchen! There are so many themes out there, you may want to try and incorporate one into your regular monthly (or weekly) agenda. Themes could be food-based, TV show-inspired, sport-centered, and decade-focused- the options are endless! Having a theme in place can help dictate the menu, decor, music, and overall ambiance for the event. This is a great event to use sparingly to intrigue new customers and bring regulars through the door that might have been coming anyway.

Craft an Art Class

There are many different ways you can incorporate an arts and crafts night for your establishment. From crafting wood signs to painting a masterpiece, let your customers’ creativity run wild, all at your restaurant. This kind of experience works particularly well if you are a tasting room or winery where you serve alcohol (versus patrons spending their dollars elsewhere BYOB-style). 

Not crafty yourself? No problem! Get in contact with a local crafter to supervise the project. Discuss how many they can oversee and the space you’re willing to dedicate. For this event, we recommend creating a limited number of tickets to not only pay for the crafter, but also have a “deposit” on the event. Include light appetizers and refreshments as part of the ticket, while also offering a special drink menu made for the event. Touches like this really elevates the event from an art class to a full experience, leading up to when your customer walks away with their latest craft creation. 

Create a Contest

Bring out a little healthy competition between your customers with a fun contest! Contests can be as simple as karaoke, darts, or trivia. Show off your outdoor space with contests like cornhole, canjam, darts, or any other yard games that encourage customers to pal around and imbibe in the evening’s offerings. 

Host a Yappy Hour

Dog-friendly patios may be the regular at your restaurant or bar, so why not make an event out of it! Many dog owners jump at the chance to have their dogs socializing while enjoying a night out for themselves. Host food or drink specials for the owners but don’t forget to have water and dog-friendly treats for the pups of honor. 

Before you get too far in the planning process, check your local jurisdiction and codes to make sure you can comply with the laws surrounding dogs in restaurants or food-areas

Help a Local Cause

Get old and new customers alike to rally around a cause at your restaurant. Having a fundraiser can be spectacular for business, employee morale, and most importantly, the cause! Working with a local school, team, or group promotes local partnerships and bring many new customers into your establishment. You may even gain a new crop of regulars!

If there’s not a specific event or cause you want to host at your restaurant, take a poll of your employees’ favorite causes. This can spark some ideas and even create a calendar of giving to get everyone on board. 

What kind of experiences does your restaurant have to engage customers throughout the year? Let us know here or on Facebook. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

What are the Different Kinds of Wood Restaurant Tables?

There’s a lot more to selecting wood restaurant tables than choosing a wood type. There are finishes and styles to consider, the atmosphere of your restaurant, where the tables will be located, and how durable they need to be. 

That variety is what makes wood such an attractive tabletop material. There is a wood style for every need, from the upscale steakhouse to the casual beer garden. Their rich, natural feel will warm up any restaurant!

Here is a breakdown of the different kinds of wood restaurant tables to help you understand your options.

Indoor Options

Most wood restaurant tables are best for indoor use only. Wood naturally swells and contracts when it’s exposed to large shifts in temperature and humidity. So keeping wood furniture in a climate-controlled environment is the best way to prevent warping or checking, and extend the life of your furniture. 

Solid Plank 

Solid plank table tops consist of planks of wood tightly glued together into a flat surface. They can come in a wide variety of hardwoods, including pine, oak, maple, cherry, walnut, mahogany, and more. 

Solid plank tables are durable and hold up well to regular restaurant use. And since they’re built with simple techniques, they can be more affordable than some other wood restaurant table options.

Butcher Block 

Butcher block tables are made of thin strips of wood glued together and planed flat. Unlike the solid plank tables which show the face grain of the wood, butcher block exposes the edge grain. 

The tight fit of the strips makes butcher block less susceptible to warping or checking, and makes it incredibly durable. It’s also resistant to bacteria! That’s why so many chefs and butchers use butcher block as a prep or cutting surface. 

Quarter Sawn

Quarter-sawing is a method of ripping boards from the tree trunk that highlights the beautiful natural ring patterns of the wood. Each restaurant table made from quarter sawn wood will be completely unique, since no two pieces of lumber will be the same. 

Quarter sawn wood is resistant to warping and can be stained to a variety of different finishes. It will also have a smooth surface that will age even over time.

Reclaimed Barn Wood 

Reclaimed barn wood is exactly what it sounds like — wood that has been removed from old barns and re-purposed into something else. Using reclaimed material is environmentally friendly.  It keeps the old material out of the landfill, and reduces the number of new trees cut down.

Reclaimed barn wood brings natural variations to restaurant tables. The planks will all be aged and weathered a little differently. But they are generally planed to consistent thickness before use, so you’ll still get a nice flat table.

Restaurant tables made from reclaimed barn wood will have a warm, rustic appeal. They would be great for any restaurant looking for an old-world atmosphere.

Distressed Wood 

Distressed wood gives you the look of reclaimed barn wood, but at a lower cost. It is deliberately damaged to give it the appearance of age and use. Some methods of distressing can include hitting the wood with hammers or chains, using a wire brush, or even burning scorch marks into the wood.

Wood Slabs

A wood slab table is a statement piece. Made from one solid piece of wood, this type of table is meant to be impressive. Wood slab tables often have live edges, meaning the wood follows the contours of the tree rather than being cut into a perfect rectangle.

Due to their high cost and large size, a wood slab table is generally something you wouldn’t use throughout your whole restaurant. But they make a great addition to a private dining room or special occasion space. 

Outdoor Wood Tables 

Wood tables inside are great, but what are the different kinds of wood restaurant tables that you can use outdoors? 

You’ll want to look for materials that are weather resistant, so they will last longer than one or two seasons. And you may also want to consider the weight of the furniture, so it won’t blow around in the wind.

Fortunately, there are a couple wood restaurant table options that will work.

Teak 

Teak has a dense wood grain and natural oils that help to protect it from the elements. This innate weather-resistance makes it an ideal material for outdoor use.

Without maintenance, teak will patina into a silvery-grey. If you want it to stay brown, it will require some regular sanding and oiling. While teak can hold up to the elements, it will fare best over the years in a covered area where it doesn’t get rained on or bake in the sun. 

When well-maintained, teak furniture can last 60 or 70 years!

Resin-Coated

Resin keeps out moisture and will prevent wear or cracking of your wood furniture.

With its versatility and durability, wood is a great material for table tops. This natural, renewable resource will bring warmth and elegance to your dining room for years to come!

If you’re looking for wood restaurant tables for your restaurant, check out our wide selection at East Coast Chair & Barstool!

Promoting Nutrition on Your Restaurant’s Menu

The average American eats out between 4 and 5 times per week. That is a lot of food consumed in restaurants. And most of that food is probably not low-cal. 

As restauranteurs, what is your obligation to provide healthier menu options? None at all, really. You’re in the business of providing delicious food and a good time, not babysitting other people’s food choices. 

Still, promoting more balanced nutrition may be a good move. More people are concerned about their health than ever before. Providing some healthier choices and more dietary information could make it easier for them to fit your food into a balanced diet. 

If this sounds like something you’d like to explore, here are some tips for promoting nutrition on your restaurant’s menu.

Provide Nutrition Information

Providing calorie counts for menu items has been a requirement for chain restaurants with 20 or more locations since mid-2018. But for the small chains and independent restaurants, there is no such requirement. 

Still, some restaurants may choose to add calorie counts to their menus. Research shows that when calories are listed, diners order meals with about 3% fewer calories. While that’s not a massive decrease, that reduction could show positive benefits over time. 

If you’d like to add nutrition information, you can send food items to a lab for analysis. Be prepared to spend between $200 and $800 per sample for high-tech testing! 

A much more affordable option would be to use online databases to estimate calories for your dishes. Resources like the USDA Food Composition Database or apps like My Fitness Pal can help you to easily calculate calories as well as carbs, protein, and fiber content.

In the wake of the new calorie-disclosure regulation for chain restaurants, there has been some concern expressed by doctors and therapists who treat disordered eating. People who are preoccupied with calories can take a step backward on their road to recovery if they’re unable to avoid calorie counts on menus.  It discourages them from making intuitive choices about their food intake and instead encourages a focus on the numbers — a behavior that treatment tries to curb.

A solution to this problem could be to have nutrition information available, but not immediately present. Add a note at the bottom of the menu stating “Nutrition information available upon request”. This would inform those concerned with calories and macronutrients that they can access the information without potentially derailing the recovery efforts of someone battling an eating disorder.

Highlight Healthy Options

Drawing attention to a high-profit menu item with a decorative frame is an old (but effective) menu trick. Why not try it for your healthier menu options as well?

You could use a frame, contrasting color, or extra white space to feature lighter menu options, positioning them as special and desirable choices. Use the same approach with a healthy seasonal special. Create a limited-time dish using in-season local produce. Display it on a table tent or menu insert to create buzz.

You’ll get the opportunity to be creative in the kitchen while also encouraging your customers to choose this healthy option.

Have A “Lighter” Menu Section

Rather than sprinkling your healthier offerings throughout the menu, consider gathering them all together in a “lighter” section. By dedicating menu real estate to some healthy options, you’ll position your restaurant as a place that caters to the health-conscious. 

A good example: Maudie’s Tex-Mex. Tex-Mex food is notoriously heavy, with cheese, sour cream, beans, and rice galore. So Maudie’s has a “Skinny Tex-Mex” section on their menu, where all options are below 500 calories. 

People looking for a healthy entree will know exactly where to look, and people looking for a high-cal extravaganza will know what to avoid!

Make “Healthy” the Default

There is no rule that says cheeseburgers have to come with fries. No requirement that pasta must come with a side of bread. No law decreeing that steak should be served with mashed potatoes.

By making healthy sides the default instead, diners will have to actively select the less healthy option, instead of receiving it automatically. Of course, if a customer wants fries with their burger, they can have them. But what if the burger came with a side salad instead, and the customer had to request the fries? 

The Blue Zones Project, a non-profit dedicated to making healthy choices easier, advocates making the healthy choice the convenient choice. And there’s some science to back them up on the efficacy of such a policy. A study of nearly 1,200 children aged 8 to 18 indicated that two-thirds would not object to receiving fruit and vegetable sides instead of french fries. 

Some fast food restaurants have started to move in this direction. For example, McDonald’s now offers a choice of side with their Happy Meals — apple slices, fries, or yogurt. But it’s still a choice, and some locations still default to french fries. A better move would be to serve all Happy Meals with apple slices and only provide french fries by request.

Add Symbols to Identify Safe Foods

Make your menu easy to navigate for people with certain dietary restrictions. A simple V (vegan), VG (vegetarian) or GF (gluten-free) can help people to quickly find the menu options that they can eat.

If those symbols will clutter your menu too much, consider having supplemental menus by request. A Gluten Free, Dairy Free, or Nut Free menu will be much appreciated by people with potentially dangerous allergies. And it will take some of the pressure off of your service staff who may not have memorized every ingredient in every dish.

Of course, they should still communicate allergies to the kitchen so the cooks can be sure to prevent any cross-contamination! But customers with allergies will be happy to avoid the minefield of hidden ingredients that they face every time they dine out.

Support your Neighborhood

Your restaurant is part of a larger community, so consider that community’s interests when adding healthy menu options. For example, the largest percentage of Weight Watchers users are over the age of 65. So if you live in an area with a lot of retirees, you could consider adding Weight Watchers point values to your menu.

If the keto craze has caught on like wildfire in your area, you may want to consider some high-fat menu items with very limited carbs. Do you have a big Crossfit gym just down the road? Make sure you have some high-protein options on the menu!

And once you’ve updated your menu, let people know! Online message boards or physical bulletin boards at gyms and fitness centers can be great places to get the word out. 

Consider the Kids

Far too many kid’s menus look like this:

  • Chicken Fingers
  • Macaroni & Cheese
  • Spaghetti
  • The End

Nary a vegetable in sight! Kid’s menus are treated as an afterthought. And it’s a shame because this is such an easy fix! You probably have the making of a healthy and tasty kid’s menu in your restaurant kitchen right now. 

Chicken doesn’t have to be fried. Lightly breaded and baked chicken will make most kids happy. Serve it with a side of steamed carrots or broccoli. Mom and Dad will know if their little ones won’t eat the veggies, and they’ll make a substitution if necessary.

A peanut butter and banana sandwich on wheat bread provides fiber, protein, and natural carbohydrates. And it could not be easier to make. Fresh fruit, yogurt, and applesauce are simple sides that are low in fat and sodium.

Providing healthy options for the kids makes sense. The parents will feel good about feeding them at your restaurant, and you’ll be high on the list of places to visit again.

Not every restaurant needs to be a monument to health and wellness. After all, no one wants to live in a world without pizza! But keeping nutrition in mind makes good sense. You’ll increase the likelihood of the health-conscious considering your restaurant as an option. And you may be able to help some customers to live a healthier, longer life at the same time. 

If it’s good for your business and good for your patrons! 

How Restaurants Can Use Pinterest Effectively

Pinterest may not have the eye-watering user numbers as Facebook (2.4 billion/month) or Instagram (1 billion/month).

But at 250 million monthly users, there is still a robust (and growing) base of dedicated Pinners out there.

And the people who do use Pinterest are the people you want to reach! Half of millennials use Pinterest — the generation that eats out more than any other. And a full 7 in 10 moms report using it as well. When you consider that 90% of women control their household spending, it becomes clear that your customers are on Pinterest!

If you’re not familiar with the platform, here’s how it works:

Pinterest is a way to save images from across the internet in one place. Users create “boards” with whatever themes they want and then save and organize “pins” to each board. Just about any image on the internet can be saved to Pinterest. And each pin links back to the original source. For you, that could be your restaurant website or Facebook page.

So how can you, a restauranteur, use Pinterest as a helpful marketing tool?

Set up a Business Account

The first thing you’ll need is a business account. A business account (rather than a personal account) will provide analytics and allow you to use Pinterest’s advertising features.

After you’ve created your account, you can complete your business profile. Add your website, logo, and some information about your restaurant. 

You’ll also want to follow the instructions to confirm your website. By using this feature, you’ll get additional helpful analytics. It will also add your logo to any pins that come from your website. There’s a tutorial here to help link your Pinterest account to several different types of websites.

Create Boards

Once your account is set up and linked to your website, you can start posting your own content to Pinterest. 

To start, create a Board. A Board is simply a place to organize pins with a similar theme.

You can create as many boards as you like. For example, Chipotle has 21 different boards on Pinterest. Some examples: 

  • Grow — A board focused on gardening. This makes sense for Chipotle, since one of their core values is a focus on fresh ingredients and responsible farming.
  • Cook — Inspiring recipes that they’ve saved from other blogs and websites.
  • Build — Highlights new stores going up around the world.
  • Wear — Dedicated to Chipotle merchandise.

You could do one focused on your menu and recipes. Another could be pictures of charitable events that your staff participates in. 

You could also have a board highlighting interesting things to do in your city. Or if your restaurant is in a historic area, you could set up a board to share pictures of the neighborhood as it’s changed through the years. 

One helpful feature of Pinterest — you can add collaborators to your board. If you have a photographer or marketing person on staff, you may want to add them as collaborators so they can make their own pins.

Start Pinning

After you have your first board set up, you can start adding pins. A pin is simply an image card (along with a caption and website link) that you will save to your board. Pins can be added from other sites across the web, or you can upload images directly to Pinterest. 

Keep in mind that Pinterest is a tool of discovery. You want your images to be interesting and helpful. People look to Pinterest for inspiration and recommendations. So pins like recipes, table layouts, cooking tips, or wine pairings could all do well. 

Also, think beyond the food. Pin pictures of picturesque areas of your restaurant. Not only will this attract potential diners, but your pins may get re-pinned by interior designers or branding firms. The result will be more exposure for your restaurant.

Don’t think you have to create 100% unique content to add to Pinterest. Different social platforms have different users. So it’s okay to re-purpose some of your Instagram posts for your Pinterest audience!

After you’ve been pinning for a while, look at your analytics to see which pins get the most engagement and which drive the most traffic to your website. Repeat their success by adding more pins with similar themes.

Encourage Other Pinners

Many Pinterest fans download the “Pin It” button to their browsers. This lets them easily capture images from other websites as they’re exploring the web. 

But you should also add a Pinterest button to your own website, just like a Facebook or Twitter button. This will encourage users to share your content on their own Pinterest boards for free, user-generated promotion of your restaurant.

Just like any other social media site, one of the goals is engagement. But Pinterest users don’t do as much commenting as users on some other social sites. Re-pins and likes are more common than comments. 

So encourage re-pins of your content. Maggiano’s Little Italy did a “Pin it to Win It” promotion with huge success. Each week, they would award a $100 gift card to a Pinterest user who had re-pinned one of their images. The result was a huge increase in Pinterest engagement.

Remember, the door swings both ways. So when a user shares one of your pins, leave them a comment to say thank you. 

Also, search Pinterest for content that is relevant to your restaurant. If you serve Italian food, search for pins related to home-made pasta, popular Continental classics, or even images of the Italian countryside. Give this relevant content a like or re-pin it to one of your own boards.

By engaging with other users, you’ll encourage them to engage back.

When to Pin

Pin regularly. Spread out your pins across the week, rather than saving them up and pinning them all at once.

Some stats say that you should be pinning at least 5 times per day. While more pins will maximize your engagement, don’t get too caught up in the numbers when you’re just starting out. Commit to pinning a few times per week, and increase your frequency from there.

Research indicates that the best times to pin on Pinterest are:

  • 2 pm — 4 pm
  • 8 pm — 11 pm
  • 2 am — 4 am 

Pinterest makes it easy for you to post during these peak times. After you create your pin, you can schedule it to post anytime in the next two weeks. You can create and schedule up to 30 posts at a time through your Pinterest business account.

Request Rich Pins

Rich Pins provide a little more oomph to your posts. The purpose of Rich Pins is to add extra information to your pin without requiring the user to click through to the source site. And the information stays with the pin, even if it’s re-pinned and the caption is changed. One study suggests they can increase website traffic by 36%!  

Rich Pins are limited to four specific types: Recipe, Article, Product, and App.

Product Pins include pricing and where to buy. You could use this type of Rich Pin if you sell merchandise or pre-packaged food items online. 

Recipe Pins list ingredients, cook time, and serving sizes. You can use this pin to share a popular restaurant recipe with your followers.

Article Pins include a headline, author, and article description. Post an Article Pin to share your good press with the world.

And App Pins allow users to install an app directly from the pin, without visiting an app store. You can use this type of pin if your restaurant has its own app.

You’ll have to request Rich Pins be added to your account before you can use them on Pinterest. Make sure your website is confirmed (see Set up Your Business Account above) before you request Rich Pins. But it’s worth the extra step to gain access to this valuable tool.

Consider Paid Advertising

The low cost of social media is one of its great selling points. But if you want to boost your reach, consider using Pinterest’s Promoted Pins. 

Pinterest estimates that it provides a $4.30 gross return for every advertising dollar spent. That’s a pretty good ROI! 

And unlike Instagram or Facebook ads, where there is no way to save the ad for future use, Pinterest ads are all pinnable! So if a bride-to-be sees your Promoted Pin for catering, she can easily save it to her wedding board as a reminder to inquire about pricing!

And when someone saves your Promoted Pin, their followers can see it as well. Even after the paid promotion ends, that pin will still be on the users’ boards.

Wrapping Up

55% of Pinterest’s users say they log on to find products, vs. only 12% for Facebook and Instagram! So it’s clear that Pinterest is where the buyers are.

While the platform isn’t quite as straightforward as Facebook or Instagram as a marketing tool, users are still highly engaged and represent a large portion of restaurant customers. Adding it to your roster of social media platforms can expand your reach, earn more brand awareness, and bring bodies through the door! 

With such a powerful tool at your disposal, it’s time to start pinning!


IsoTops: A Low Maintenance Alternative for Indoor or Outdoor Tables

From finishing the schedule to dealing with a dinner rush to covering shifts yourself, you don’t want to be worrying about the durability of your table tops each time you open up your patio. As a restaurant owner, you have enough to worry about!

IsoTop Sliq tables provide a modern, stylish table option that are still subtle enough to coordinate with any theme or concept. True to the “Sliq” name, these IsoTops have a thin European ½” edge profile that look great in any of the finishes.

Add character to your patio with these five matte finish options by scrolling through this slideshow:

  • East Coast Chair & Barstool's Gray Oak IsoTop Sliq Table Top
    Gray Oak IsoTop Sliq Table Top: A great alternative to putting real wood outside with its wood grain pattern!
  • Gray Oak- A great alternative to putting real wood outside with its wood grain pattern!
  • Cement- This pattern has the appearance of a poured cement, without the roughness!  
  • Dark Mica- If you like the look of stone, Dark Mica has the color and fine details that make it look like a stone table top!
  • Metal Line- This table is distressed with variations in color and even looks like it has a texture, all with a matte finish!
  • Black Steel- A darker, weathered look, this metal-looking table gives a lot of character to your outdoor space!

Not only do these table tops look good, they’re versatile too! IsoTops are a great option because they can be used indoors or outdoors at your restaurant.

These tables are made extremely durable through their manufacturing process. A combination of blended resins, wax, and wood pulp mixed with high heat and pressure create the characteristically dense core of these tables. Each IsoTop is fully laminated with several layers for extra durability and is pre-stressed to avoid warping.

Give your outdoor dining the smooth finish and look of durable IsoTop Sliq tables.

Which IsoTop pattern would you want to integrate into your outdoor design?

4 Up and Coming Food Cities of 2019

Once upon a time, the established wisdom declared that great food in this country was the domain of New York City. Of course, this was never actually true. There was and is great food across the nation, from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine.

Still, sometimes a surge occurs in a particular city that makes the rest of us sit up and take notice. A place that was never known for its food is suddenly attracting attention from critics and foodies alike.

This seems to be happening more and more these days. Creative young chefs with dreams of starting their own restaurant are flocking to smaller cities where rents are reasonable and competition is less fierce.

A newly vibrant restaurant scene often accompanies a town’s revitalization. Old warehouse spaces in a defunct downtown become hip new eateries, attracting more shops, residents, and eventually, public transit.

So it’s always exciting when a new (to us) food hotspot makes waves. Here are four up-and-coming food cities that we think you’ll want to visit!

Sacramento

When the land surrounding your city grows 40% of the country’s fruit and a third of its produce, the phrase “farm-to-table” takes on a whole new meaning.

California’s Central Valley provides produce for restaurants across the nation. But Sacramento’s proximity means those carrots weren’t picked two weeks ago — they were picked two days ago.

Long overshadowed by Los Angeles to the south and San Francisco to the southwest, Sacramento is becoming a food destination of its own. The city provides a respite from the outrageous pricing in San Francisco — one of the most expensive rental markets in the country.

More affordable restaurant space for chefs equals more affordable menu prices for patrons.

One of the hallmarks of a burgeoning food scene seems to be at least one upscale food hall. And wouldn’t you know, Sacramento got their very own in November 2018. The Bank, located in a 100-year-old bank building, currently has four operating restaurants, with more to come.

Where to Eat in Sacramento

So many delicious options. Try Beast and Bounty. The “Beast” section of the menu provides a range of meat and seafood dishes, while the “Bounty” section focuses on imaginative vegetarian options.

If you like to let the chef take the lead, try The Kitchen. This award-winning restaurant only has one option — their seasonal five-course prix fixe menu. Past courses have included morel and crème fraiche tortelloni and rose beef loin poached in truffle butter.

Tampa

Across the country, the good people of Tampa, Florida are experiencing a food revolution of their own.

After an economic decline in the 70s and 80s, the city is undergoing a revitalization. Upgrades to the Tampa Riverwalk, new downtown mixed-use development, and museum improvements are all part of the area’s resurgence.

Native Floridians will tell you that there has always had a strong food culture here, thanks in part to the culinary traditions brought by Cuban, German, Italian, and Spanish immigrants.

But that has all become more visible lately. A few recent James Beard nominations and the renewal of neighborhoods like Seminole Heights has put Tampa on the food map.

A walkable neighborhood of historic homes, Seminole Heights has become a mecca for vintage shops, craft cocktails, and tasty eats. Local favorite Rooster & the Till serves upscale creative small plates. A few minutes away, Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe keeps the area funky with comfort food, eclectic art, and local live music.

Ybor City is another foodie destination. Just north of Downtown Tampa, this neighborhood is like a love letter to the history, art, and food of the region. Visit in April to experience Ybor Aficionado Days — a walking tour through Ybor’s “tapas trail” with bites at every stop.

Where to Eat in Tampa

Tampa is home to not one, but two new food halls. First to open was the Hall on Franklin. It has a seafood and raw bar, poke, dessert, coffee, and cocktails.

Newer on the scene is Heights Public Market with contemporary ramen, modern Cuban, sushi, pizza, specialty sandwiches, and more. It’s all inside the Armature Works Building — the former storage facility for Tampa’s streetcars.

Indianapolis

Outside of Chicago, the midwest doesn’t get a lot of love from the culinary set. And that’s a real shame, because cities like St. Louis, Missouri; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Madison, Wisconsin all have some amazing restaurants.

But today, we’re going to talk about Indianapolis. Once you get away from the mega-sports complexes downtown, you’ll find international flavors, new American cuisine, and cocktails from traditional to tiki.

The International Marketplace is a haven of tastes from around the world. You’ll find food from countries as varied as Ethiopia, Nigeria, Guinea, Japan, China, India, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mexico — too many to list. There are 80 different ethnic restaurants here!

Not far away is the Broad Ripple neighborhood, one of Indianapolis’ seven cultural districts. The area features unique spots like Locally Grown Gardens. Part restaurant, part farmer’s market, the stars of the show are the hog roast and sugar cream pie.  

To learn a little while you’re there, visit Chef JJ’s Back Yard. They offer classes ranging from pizza to seafood to kamado-style steak to smoking in a Big Green Egg.

And of course, there is a food hall taking over a once-defunct historical property. The Garage Food Hall in the Bottleworks District is coming to Indianapolis’ old Coca-Cola bottling plant. Expected to open in spring 2020, the area will hold more than 25 food and drink concepts.

Where to Eat in Indianapolis

Located in a renovated 1924 factory warehouse, James Beard semifinalist Bluebeard regularly tops the local “best of” lists. Menu items range from small plates of modern oysters Rockefeller to full-sized ribeyes and pork chops.

For a more laid-back meal, try Tinker Street near downtown. Korean chicken & waffles, summer rolls filled with poached shrimp and mango, and pad thai with squash noodles are all on the eclectic menu. They even serve “corn dogs” — but foie gras bratwurst and pepper jelly make them decidedly grown-up.

Las Vegas

To those of us who have only visited the City of Lights for the strip, it could be surprising to consider it a dining destination. While there is good food at the casinos, it doesn’t have the reputation of being terribly imaginative.

But an interesting thing happened when big name chefs started bringing their concepts to the area in the 1990s and 2000s.

Once their restaurants were established, the celebrity chefs went back to their homes in fashionable New York or LA. But someone had to run the kitchens in their absence. So they hired great young talent.

And when it came time for those young chefs to make their next move, some found the low cost of living and great weather enough reason to stay in Vegas.

The result is an exciting food scene to supplement some of the great food that was already here, hidden in plain site.

The hip Arts District has experienced a rebirth, full of galleries, antique shops, condos, and of course, restaurants.

Executive Chef James Trees of Esther’s Kitchen cut his teeth at the Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace before opening Esther’s in 2016. It’s now a local favorite serving “Italian soul food” like bucatini carbonara and brunch pizza with quail eggs and bacon.

In Spring Mountain, a less trendy part of town, a huge commercial Chinatown has sprung up. There are an estimated 150 restaurants here!

In fact, “Chinatown” is a bit of a misnomer — cuisine ranges from regional Chinese to sushi, udon, ramen, pho, Thai, and more. It’s a cultural melting pot with a massive following from the locals. Popular joints can have lines day and night.

Where to Eat in Las Vegas

Forte Tapas looks unassuming at first glance. Located in a strip mall, it may not be where you’d expect to find Bulgarian tapas or cocktails like a Smoked Vanilla Chai Old Fashioned. But they’re celebrating their 10-year anniversary, so clearly they’re doing something right.

Back in Chinatown, visit Lamaii for outstanding Thai food in an upscale setting. They have all the standards like Pad Thai and Pad See Aew. But try the Mun Pu Fried Rice — rice cooked in crab fat with lump crab meat.

So many delicious places to eat, and so little time to get to them all!

What do you think of our list? Are there any up-and-coming food cities that you’re excited about? Let us know below!

What is the Cost of Shipping for Restaurant Furniture?

FAQ's From the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

We live in a world where we’ve become accustomed to free or cheap shipping: free two-day shipping on that new laptop that you bought from Amazon Prime, or a flat $5.99 shipping on that silver charm bracelet that you got your wife for mother’s day. Those items ship via small package carriers like the US Postal Service, UPS Ground, or FedEx. They’re limited in size, weighing only a couple of pounds on average, and arrive at your front door in days.

Not all goods are as easy, or as cheap, to ship, however. Take restaurant furniture, for example. It’s big, bulky, heavy, and often ordered in multiple pieces (think 40 chairs, 10 bar stools, and 10 tables). For that reason, furniture is put on pallets and ships via a different method called less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier. LTL carriers take large palletized freight, and deliver it to your business on large semi-trucks.

There are many factors that determine the cost of shipping restaurant furniture via LTL carrier, some are obvious, and others, while not immediately apparent, make sense when you think about them. Here is a short list of the most important variables in the shipping calculation, along with a brief explanation.

Distance Between Shipper & Customer

The distance between the shipper and the customer (receiver) is one of the more obvious factors in the cost of shipping; we naturally expect that shipping from Boston to California will be more expensive than, say, shipping from Pennsylvania to Ohio. More distance means higher fuel costs and more driver time (wages). In addition, long trips often require a team of drivers that can alternate driving time in order to get the shipment to its destination in a timely manner.

Location

Shippers have what are called “good lanes” and “bad lanes”. A good lane is one that sees a lot of daily freight traffic, so the carrier knows that if they send a truck to that location, the odds are good that they will be able to fill the truck on the return trip. A bad lane is one in which there isn’t a lot of freight coming out, which means that the carrier may have to return empty, or only partially full. If a carrier can’t fill the truck, then they are making less money, or even losing money, on that trip. If a lane is bad for a carrier, then they will often charge more per piece to compensate themselves for the fact that they may not be able to fill the truck on the return. One prime example of a “bad lane” is Florida. There is a lot of freight going in to Florida, but not much coming out (for various reasons), so carriers will often charge a premium to deliver there.

Destination Type (Residential, Commercial, or Limited Access)

Customers often ask why it costs more to send a shipment to their home than it does to send the same shipment to their business. There are actually many reasons, but we’ll just list a few. First, businesses tend to be located in areas where large trucks can easily get in and out (if not, then they’re called limited access locations and are subject to the same fees as residential locations). Residential streets, on the other hand, are often too narrow for large semis to maneuver, so carriers have to send in a smaller truck, which means more handling of your freight. Second, businesses generally have somebody (or multiple people) and equipment on hand during business hours to unload the truck quickly and efficiently. Carriers know that they can just show up, open their doors, and the employees of the business will take care of the rest. With residential delivery, carriers have to call ahead to coordinate delivery, work around the homeowner’s schedule, and wait there until they unload the truck – often by hand.

Size of the Shipment

To simplify this point, let’s say you’re an LTL carrier that delivers from New York City to Orlando, FL. You know that to cover your costs and make a profit, you need to charge $3000 per truck for the trip. Now, a customer comes along and wants to ship 100 barstools to Orlando, which will take up about ⅓ of the truck. How much do you need to charge them? Of course, $1000! Now this is an over-simplification of the complex algorithms that carriers use to determine freight rates, but it does illustrate the point that the more of the truck you take up with your shipment, the more you pay.

Weight of the Shipment

You might be tempted to think that weight is the biggest factor in determining your freight costs, but that would be wrong. Weight does play a role, but it’s a smaller role than other variables. For example, according to one freight carrier website, you can ship a 48” x 48” x 60” pallet that weighs 200 pounds from Mercer, PA to Beverly Hills, CA (thank you Beverly Hills 90210 for being perpetually stuck in my brain and giving me a test zip code for life) for around $300. If we double the weight to 400 pounds, the rate only goes up around $50. Triple the weight, and you only increase another $20. How is this possible? Freight shippers use something called freight class, which is based on the density of your shipment: large, light materials have a high freight class, while smaller, denser materials have a lower freight class. As we raise the weight of the shipment, our density calculations go up, and our freight class goes down, which means that our overall rate only goes up a little bit for each additional pound that we ship.

Additional Services (Accessorials)

Accessorials are small additional services carriers provide that add up in a big way. Need a phone call before delivery? That’ll be up to $25, please. Want a lift gate to lower your pallets to the ground? They can range between $50 up to $200 depending on the carrier. Want the driver to bring your freight into the building? Don’t even ask! The point is that accessorial charges can be expensive, and should be avoided when possible.

As you’ve probably noticed, LTL freight is different from small package shipping in many ways. It can sound expensive at first, but there are two important things to remember.

  1. If you put 20 chairs on a pallet and it costs $200 to ship them, then that is only $10 per chair. If you were to ship the same number of chairs individually via small package delivery, the cost would be much higher.
  2. Truly free shipping is pretty much non-existent. You are almost always paying the freight, even if it doesn’t seem like it. It might come in the form of higher prices or reduced service levels, but shipping is always part of the cost of ordering restaurant furniture.

We hope this guide shed some light on the often confusing world of LTL freight and the true cost of shipping restaurant furniture.

If you have any additional questions, our shipping department is always happy to help. Just give us a call 800-986-5352.


The Buzz on Cold Brew Coffee in Restaurants

Want to shake up your beverage offerings and appeal to customers in the warmer months? Cold brew coffee is a great way to do that!

You surely have seen the distinguishing characteristics of cold brew coffee on social media or at the coffee shop you frequent. The coffee has a unique appearance with its amalgamation of dark and light liquids suspended in a clear cup just before it’s stirred. It’s beautiful, it’s artistic, and it’s also heavily-caffeinated- a total winning combination in the Insta-driven world of coffee beverages.

So how can your restaurant capitalize on the cold brew craze? Let’s first talk about how cold brew rose to popularity and what it actually is.

Where did cold brew coffee come from?

Starbucks Cold Brew Bottle

Cold brew may seem it’s around every corner cafe at this point but its origin story dates back to 16th century China. Its latest surge in popularity has been largely tied to Starbucks adding a cold-brew option to select stores in 2015. Cold brew is also commonly found in transportable containers, right next to cash registers, to accommodate the busy customer that will never have to worry about their coffee going cold. This combination of being on a mass-retailer’s menu and the simpleness of grab and go containers make cold brew coffee a widespread, buzzing success for coffee fans.

How is cold brew coffee made?

Cold Brew Coffee with Cream

Cold brew coffee is like the younger, cooler (no pun intended) sister of iced coffee. It has a smoother taste, lower levels of acidity, and often more caffeine in it. But, the cold brew process is a longer one than that of iced, or even hot, coffee. To get the flavorful benefits of a good cold brew, you have to give it a little time…

Cold brew is made by steeping coarse ground coffee in room temperature water (not hot) for up to 24 hours. Afterwards, the grounds are filtered out, leaving a uniform consistency to the liquid. Rather than relying on heat, it’s the steeping time that brings out the “coffee’s oils, sugars, and caffeine”.

There are a lot of cold brew recipes out there that use plastic bags and other non-food-safe options that are more DIY than your health inspector will probably prefer. For a restaurant, bakery, or coffee shop, you’ll definitely want to opt for a stainless steel system to keep things as sanitary as possible. Depending on the gallon capacity you’re interested in, standard cold brew systems can run anywhere from $200 to $700.

How you can try it in your restaurant:

Cold Brew Coffee in a Glass

As great as cold brew is, we don’t recommend throwing your hot coffee pot out on the curb. There is definitely an audience for both of these preparation methods. You don’t want to completely isolate someone’s coffee preference, but it’s great to give them options, you may have more coffee fans than you think.

Cold brew coffee makes the most sense in restaurants that serve breakfast or lunch fare over dinner-only eateries. Due to its higher than normal caffeine content, diners probably won’t be turning to this beverage as their post-dinner café unless they’re planning an all-nighter.

As we mentioned above, making cold brew is a lengthy process so unless you’re steeping grounds the whole time your doors are open, you may run out until your next batch is ready to go. If you plan on trying this trend, you’ll have to figure out how much you’ll need based on the day and its popularity, like any other food item. And if you find that your customers are really loving the buzz of cold brew, consider installing a cold brew tap system that can keep larger batches ready to go and very accessible for your staff!

Are you ready to give cold brew a chance in your restaurant? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook what you think of this buzz!

5 Furniture Hacks That Will Help Your Restaurant Run More Smoothly

Furniture is essential to any restaurant, but did you know you could actually use it to your advantage? The right furniture can help keep your restaurant operations running fluidly.

Customers are expecting quicker service than ever and restaurants are on the clock to deliver. Time is of the essence and speed is the pièces de résistance to make it happen. If your restaurant doesn’t have the capital to jump to the artificial intelligence of Jetson-like robots….that’s super normal.

Poor time management can snap a business model in half but by choosing the correct restaurant furnishings, you can help your staff run as efficiently as possible. We’ve narrowed down five furniture hacks that will keep your operation effective for your employees and bottom line profitable!

This furniture will streamline your hostesses and waitstaff processes, cut down cleaning times without skimping, and use your square footage effectively.  

Add a POS Station

Hostess Station in Urban Distressed Wood

Eliminate employees not being able to find pens, crayons, napkins, and even wait-time buzzers by having it all in one space: a point of sale station! Having a designated space for these things to reside can help cut out frantic scrambling for these easy to misplace items.

Even better, you can customize your POS station to fit your restaurant’s processes. Need somewhere to put rolled silverware so it’s at the ready? Opt for some wider shelves that can fit baskets the silverware can be tucked away in. Do you need to have the space to stack trays and menu? Try cabinet doors that shut and can hide away stored items.

By organizing these items, at an arm’s length away, your hostesses and wait staff can be ready for whatever the dinner rush throws at them.

Use Crumb Strips in Your Booth Section

Booths with a Crumb Strip

Vinyl color, height, and single vs. double are just a few of the factors that run through restaurant owners heads’ when they purchase commercial booths. But one important factor that is definitely not at the top of their list to consider when buying a booth is having a crumb strip.

A crumb strip in your booths will make your wait staff and bussers’ cleaning routine so much easier. This narrow strip of space between the back and seat cushions of the booth let them really get in there with a rag and, much like its name, get the crumbs out! Not only does the crumb strip make it simpler to get in between the table and booth vinyl, it can also increase the likelihood it won’t be left by your staff because it was too hard to reach. Which isn’t good for anyone… who wants to seat on a crumby booth?

Lower Wait Times with Indoor/Outdoor Furniture Seating

Distressed Viktor Chairs in Kelly Red

Sometimes it feels like the dinner crowd just won’t stop pouring in! As a restaurant owner, this is a great problem to have but it does present an issue for space. If the weather is nice, you’ll want to maximize your patio space. But that could mean prepping furniture you haven’t use in awhile, shaking off the cobwebs, and hoping the dead leaves from last fall have evaporated off your patio.

Why not invest in versatile seating that can pull double duty in both seating charts? These pieces of furniture are typically metal that are specially finished for indoor or outdoor use. Having this kind of seating on hand can be helpful to keep wait times lower, as well as increasing the amount of customers your staff can serve. Lower wait times, happier customers, bigger tips, just from having seating that can go anywhere!

Clean Up Your Outdoor Space in a Snap

Whether you’re just breaking out your restaurant’s patio furniture or you’re putting it away for the end of the season, cleaning it up is a great way to protect your investment and adding to your curb appeal. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if you could pressure-wash the outdoor space AND your furniture at the same time?

Cue poly lumber furniture!

This eco-friendly substance is a great alternative to wood with its non-porous makeup, which means it won’t retain moisture! Your staff can wipe down (or pressure-wash) poly lumber furniture without worrying about mildew, fungi, or any other growing mold. Poly lumber has many benefits for outdoor use, making it a simple solution for hard-to-take-of furniture.

Accommodate Guests (and Your Staff)

Communal Table in a Restaurant

Larger parties can be a struggle for your restaurant to accommodate, especially if your go-to defense is pushing together smaller table tops. It can be a pain for your wait staff to be constantly constructing and deconstructing the same space over and over, depending on who walks through the door.

By having a communal table or two that you can seat large parties, you can avoid losing your small tables by having to push them together. This way your staff can keep a balance between the larger parties and smaller tables, preventing them from becoming too overwhelmed.

We’re not saying you need to stand there with a stopwatch and record your employees’ every move, but it’s important to consider the success rate of how your staff’s current performance and what you should do to help. Even when your staff is on their game and working their hardest, there may be some areas that you can help make them more efficient in their jobs, just by changing your furniture.

Top Mistakes Restaurant Owners Make in Their First Year and How to Avoid Them

Restaurant Communal Table with Dinner

We’ve all heard that terrifying statistic — 90% of new restaurants fail within the first year. Fortunately for both owners and people who like to go out to eat, this “fact” is completely untrue. According to research by Dr. H.G. Parsa of Ohio State University, first-year restaurant failure rates are closer to a much less shocking 26%. (The 90% myth, by the way, is so prevalent that it was even cited in an American Express commercial in the early 2000s. AmEx was never able to substantiate their claim.)

Still, that means that one out of four new restaurants isn’t going to survive to its first anniversary. Sometimes, these closures are beyond the owners’ control. An economic downturn, staffing issues, infrastructure problems, or new government policies can all lead to failures, despite the best efforts of management.

But there are certain mistakes that restaurant owners often make when they first get started that can be major factors in the success or failure of their restaurants. Here are some common mistakes that restaurant owners make in their first year of business, and how you can avoid them.

Mistake #1 — Not appreciating the necessary time commitment

The restaurant industry is hard, both physically and mentally. It requires long hours, intense attention to detail, and a mastery of a whole slew of different disciplines from managing people to sales forecasting to marketing to cooking to sanitation…

And because money is always tight in the restaurant business, all of this has to be organized and executed by an incredibly small management team. The result is long hours away from home, family, and hobbies. In Dr. Parsa’s study, he notes that most failed restaurateurs cited family sacrifice as at least part of the reason that their restaurants shuttered.

Owning a restaurant will always be hard work. But one step you can take to try to balance your work with your home life is to delegate and outsource where you can.

The key to delegating effectively:

  • Communicate exactly what you’re looking for.
  • Provide a clear vision of success.

For example, maybe you decide to hand off social media management to a staff member or freelancer. Make sure that person knows how many posts you want per week and the type of content you like on your feed. Food photos? Videos of guests having a good time? Bartenders making drinks? Behind-the-scenes footage of the kitchen? Promotions for upcoming events? Clear content guidelines will help to automate the process and prevent frustration down the line.

Then, give the delegate a metric that is easy to track. Maybe you want to grow your social media following by 10% per month, or maybe you want a certain number of people to engage with your posts on a weekly basis. Aim for straightforward, concrete goals so the whole team will know exactly what success looks like.

Mistake #2 — Not compensating for inexperience

Opening a restaurant sounds like fun. And it can be! But there’s a reason why industry greats like Wolfgang Puck and Gordon Ramsay worked in restaurants for nearly 15 years before opening their own. There is a ton to learn before you’re ready to be the boss.

Training and managing a small army of prep cooks, chefs, servers, bartenders, and hosts is difficult enough. Add in marketing, controlling food and labor costs, licensing and permitting, facilities management, special events, and more, and it’s enough to make your head spin if you haven’t risen through the restaurant ranks.

That doesn’t mean that every restaurant with an inexperienced owner is doomed to fail. But you’ll need to hire the best general manager or director of operations that you can afford. Ten or twenty years of restaurant management experience will come at a cost, but it will be worth to have a pro on your team.

Mistake #3 — Lack of clear concept

Your concept is not just your cuisine. Your concept is what makes you unique. Why should people go to your pizza joint, instead of the pizza joint down the street? What special purpose does your restaurant serve?

Maybe you are an upscale date spot located in a renovated 1960s gas station serving ultra-thin-crust Neapolitan pizzas with high-end toppings like foie gras and shaved white truffle.

Now compare that to Chuck E. Cheese — a family-friendly pizza place with lots of games and entertainment for kids. Both serve the same basic cuisine, but their concepts are radically different.

So what is it, beyond just your type of food, that makes you special? You’ll never be all things to all people, so dig in and focus on who you’re trying to attract, and for what occasions. You want to position your restaurant as the “go-to” place for something specific — an occasion, an atmosphere, a certain theme. What do you do better than anyone else?

A clear concept will serve as a guide as you navigate choices down the line. Menu changes, community events, and promotions will all be easier to approve or deny when you have a clearly defined concept.

Mistake #4 — Allowing subpar food to persist

Your menu was carefully curated, each recipe lovingly tested and presented by your executive chef. You tried each dish, gave it your seal of approval, and are now confident in the knowledge that you can be proud of your food.

But over time, corners get cut. Maybe the line cooks are sandbagging steaks to get through the rush more easily, resulting in dried-out sirloins. Maybe the prep cooks are only letting the soup simmer for 15 minutes instead of the required 45 minutes, so the flavor isn’t as rich.

These time-saving tweaks aren’t malicious on the part of your staff, but they can drastically reduce the quality of the food. And customers will notice.

Make it a habit to eat in your restaurant regularly — but discreetly. Ask a manager to ring in food for you, but make sure they don’t tell the kitchen staff that it’s for the boss. That way, you’ll get an accurate taste of what your restaurant is serving to your guests, and you’ll be able to address any deviations from the original dish.

Mistake #5 — Not keeping track of permits

When you were first opening your restaurant, you had to get a variety of permits and licenses from all sorts of local and county departments like the health, fire, and building departments, state liquor authority, comptroller, and more.

Right around your 1-year mark, many of those permits will need to be renewed. And they’ll probably have to be renewed annually for as long as your restaurant is operating. Failure to stay on top of this tedious (but vital) administrative work can result in fines or could even get you shut down.

Make absolutely sure that you are tracking all permit and license expiration dates!

One free method is to create a special Google or Outlook calendar just for permits, and schedule all expiration dates with reminders 60 and 30 days out. When you get your 60-day reminder, you can file the proper paperwork and schedule any necessary inspections to keep your restaurant in compliance. At the 30-day mark, double check that everything has been received by the corresponding city or county department.

Another option is to use software like Renewal Tracker to manage renewal dates, reminders, costs, and supporting documentation all in one place.

And make sure all managers know where the permits are posted in the restaurant so they’re easy to find if you’re not around.

Mistake #6 — Not planning for the worst

When you created your business plan, you made assumptions (aka guesses) about expected sales and revenue. You did your research and tried to be pragmatic, but you still had no real way of knowing what those numbers would be.


Once you open your doors, you’ll find out how accurate your guesses were. It may take time — months, or even years — for your restaurant to perform the way that you hoped.

Don’t forget that you have to cover food, labor, rent, utilities, taxes, and loan payments, no matter how much money you’re bringing in. It some time to build a devoted customer base, so make sure to reserve some of your startup capital. It’s vital to have some cash on hand if things get off to a slow start.

Keep an eye on your cash reserves, and always try to keep in mind how many months you could continue to operate if you don’t see an improvement in sales. This will help you to know when you need to start looking for outside capital. Make sure you come up with a strategy well in advance of having to choose between making payroll and paying the electric bill. Remember, the best time to look for cash is when you don’t need it.

The restaurant business can be fun and rewarding, but it’s still a business. Hiring a great team, creating the best possible product, and keeping a cautious eye on your income and expenses can all help to ensure that your first year isn’t also your last.